5 January 2004
So there went the festive season, then. I feel stewed to rags, and largely by cooking; first for the anaesthetists, and then for Xmas day (three-bird roast and seven veg, after prawns and cucumber mousse for starters and followed of course by the pudding. The three birds were goose, chicken and pheasant, boned and stuffed the one inside the other and again, and interleaved with pork & orange stuffing; I'm still too chicken to do the job myself, so this one came from Seldom Seen Farm in Leicestershire, and is highly recommended), and yesterday again for my birthday. I had a tea-party, from three till whenever people left, so I boiled & glazed a ham, roasted a joint of beef (I wish I could say a baron, but alas...) and made cakes and scones and such. Had a couple of disasters, but that's okay, I'm still a novice baker. A fruit cake just had to be slung out, but no matter for that, people have probably had too much of fruit cake by this end of the season; and when the sponge layers came out more leathery than spongy, I converted my caramel cake into a banoffee flan, by the strategic purchase of a precooked base and a scatter of bananas over the far-too-gorgeous-to-waste caramel cream filling. Never made caramel before; it's scary, but it's fun.
Then I let the gannets - sorry, guests - in, and they devoured almost everything, which impressed the hell out of me. For me it was one of those busy-busy parties where you're always dashing around trying to meet three different needs at once, and so never get to talk to anyone; but so it should be, and I think most people enjoyed themselves. And they brought lots of presents, which is after all the point and purpose of a birthday party; and the good thing about starting mid-afternoon is that people tend to drift off commensurately early, so you have time to wind down and have a bath and watch Red Dwarf and still be in bed at a relatively normal hour. God knows why I'm so shattered today, then, but I am.
Today being the first day of the working year, my thoughts turned virtuously to the novel, which I seem not to have looked at for weeks; and then they seized the sudden opportunity of a day-trip to the Bowes Museum (a strange faux-chateau near Barnard Castle, which is itself near nowhere; it ain't actually that far as the crow flies, but it takes forever to get there) to see a William Morris exhibition. Love Morris, love the whole Arts & Crafts movement, we have strong connections here in the north-east, there are a hundred good reasons to go to such a thing even discounting the company of friends; but the best reason, obviously, is that I should have stayed home and done working. Or at least done the washing-up. I did have this lovely theory that in the days before the party I could devote many hours to cleaning, tidying & sorting, so that the working year should begin fresh and scrubbed and ready. Hah, say I. Many hours came down to a quick hoover on Sunday morning, and shove all the papers into the office any old how; so in fact, what with all the dirty dishes & lost documents, the house and my life are now in worse order than they were before. And the only one surprised at this is me.
© Chaz Brenchley 2004
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.